If you’re engaging with your target audience on any level via social media, whether for business development or promoting your brand, that is social selling. If you thought you could use social media to interrupt people’s lives with cold and hard sells, think again. Social selling is all about providing opportunities for your ideal buyer to know, like, and trust you as an individual and get to know you over time. Social selling is not about selling at all. It’s about warming up your prospects, building relationships and establishing trust.
Social selling is no longer optional for businesses. Reports suggest that social networking takes up nearly a quarter of all the time spent online and reaches more than 75 percent of all internet users. It is a powerful strategy that can help you build relationships, establish credibility and win customers. As Dale Carnegie wrote in his bestseller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, building relationships and changing people’s thinking are the linchpins of success. Today, social selling is the optimal tool for achieving both.
Why are more and more buyers avoiding salespeople during the buying process?
Sales reps tend to prioritise a sales agenda over solving a customer’s problem. They are so occupied in their sales pitch that they neglect to listen to what the prospect has to say. If businesses don’t change their outdated thinking and create effective sales models for today’s digital era, many of them will find themselves losing their customer base. The answer is to the shift away from reliance on outbound sales calls to social selling. With social selling, salespeople use social media platforms to research, prospect, and network by sharing educational content and answering questions. As a result, they’re able to build relationships until prospects are ready to buy.
Why you can’t afford to live in The Past
The prospective customer now goes on a self-guided journey far deeper into the buying cycle. Essentially, if you understand that far more of the buying process now happens online, you understand the challenge. Buyers look to their peers and social networks before they engage with traditional sales organisations. You don’t have to abandon the traditional channels you’ve always relied on, such as email, phone calls and meetings. The idea is to make these traditional channels more fruitful through the use of social media.
Modern social selling isn’t complex, and, mostly, it doesn’t require any specialist skills. But it does require a different way of thinking about the sales process. Still, many businesses have now started to add social selling to the set of skills required for their organisations. It’s important to understand social selling doesn’t call for making sales pitches via social media. The goals are to find potential customers, relate to their needs, and engage with them.
Here are seven steps to help you leverage the power of social selling:
1. Build a professional online presence
Today’s world of buyers are very selective and will only work with those they can trust. A strong professional online brand shows you are an active participant in your industry. It leads to more inquiries from prospects. It leads to more responses and engagements with your communications. Building your brand isn’t a one shot deal. It takes time to build a solid presence and should be an ongoing endeavor. Keep your profiles up-to-date, stay in touch with your contacts, build and maintain your network, and work on your branding on a regular basis.
2. Know your audience
There are people out there who have a need. They have a timeframe for purchase, they even have budget. If only you could get in front of them, they’d buy from you right now. Of course, to get in front of them you need to find out who they are, where they are and how to contact them. This is the basis of building a good relationship. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social sites give you access to key information about your existing followers and the followers you are after. You are able to uncover valuable information about their surfing habits, their jobs, their life style, their reading habit and the content they mostly engage with. This is easily obtained because people are now happy to share very intimate information about themselves, their activities and their interests.
3. Engage with your audience
Position yourself as a subject matter expert by sharing relevant industry content, commenting on news alerts, and building your professional brand. Entrepreneurs can enhance their thought leadership by staying up-to-date with industry news, and by identifying new contacts or decision makers.
4. Listening to identify leads
Your customers and prospects are sharing incredibly valuable information on their social channels – they’re basically telling you exactly what they want and need. All you have to do is pay attention by taking note of the themes they are interested in, the posts they share and the topics they engaged with. You need to monitor what people are saying about you, your company, your industry, and your competitors. A variety of tools including Google Alerts, Mention, even hashtag searches, help cut through the digital noise to identify people who are talking about, interested in and interacting with your brand. You can reach out to people who may be “warm” leads and nurture them along the conversion path. Watch for pain points and requests for recommendations, both of which provide natural opportunities for you to provide the solution to a problem.
5. Be genuine and authentic
Once you have identified the people you want to have in your network, begin to engage with them. Find common ground and use it as an entry point to initiate dialogue and establish a connection. Making friends is easy when you’re authentic. Like walking into a networking event where you know only a few people, your inclination when striking up common thread. Find it, and you’ve got an authentic conversation starter. It’s no different on social media. Interact authentically by responding to someone’s post that you truly liked. Ultimately, you’ll be in a better position to create a tailored and authentic “pitch” with relationships already in play.
6. Leverage your existing contacts
Before reaching out to any of the leads you identify, check their following and follower lists to see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, you may ask your shared contact for an introduction. This is also a great way to borrow the trust from your existing customer to establish credibility with the new lead. The next step is to deepen your relationships. The core of selling is trust. People want to invest in, work for and partner with professionals they know and trust. Forge relationships; don’t seek transactions. Social selling is about engaging with people in a disarming way. It’s about giving and receiving. Nurturing relationships takes time and calls for authenticity at all times. This approach generates more qualified leads than cold calling and allows you to build long-term, genuine connections.
7. Provide value
If you’re going to do social selling, you have to do it right. That means providing valuable information to the right prospects at the right time. Rather than simply talking about your product or service, your goal should be to contribute valuable information that can help establish you as an expert in your field. Write posts that share important knowledge, but don’t be afraid to share relevant posts from others as well. When sharing content from others, add a short comment of your own about how the knowledge can be applied in your specific field. It’s also acceptable to mention your product or service in some of your social posts, but don’t make your posts sales pitches or presentations. Your goal in social selling is to establish relationships that will eventually lead to a sale, not to make a sale on first contact.
Social selling is the art of using social networks to find, connect with, understand, and nurture sales prospects. The goal is to form a relationship with each prospect, providing suggestions and answering questions. It’s the way to develop meaningful relationships with potential customers that keep you – and your brand – front of mind, so you become the natural first point of contact when a prospect is ready to buy.